Ultimate Blogs: a review

I just finished the book Ultimate Blogs, edited and collected by Sarah Boxer. She readily admits that a book about blogs seems, well, strange because, let’s face it, the peculiarities of blogging don’t always translate so well into a book format. And this book, while nice, is surely already outdated. That said, Boxer does a nice job of culling out some interesting writers from the Blogosphere and highlights their ability to create a very lively writing persona via their blogs. I didn’t like all of them but I did find myself enjoying quite a few of the bloggers in the book.

Masterworks from the Wild Web (Vintage Original)

Here are a few that struck my fancy:

  • Under Odysseus — a blog about the Trojan war, with a modern bent, from a soldier serving under Odysseus. Sounds lame but it isn’t. The writer injects humor and tradition into a modern retelling of the story. The best in the book, for me.
  • Midnight in Iraq — this blog was featured in the New York Times and the writer is no longer a soldier or in Iraq, but the posts are illuminating and intriguing and humanizing. He now blogs about being home.
  • Julia {let there be hippogriffs} is a blog about a mom and her views on fertility and being a mom and wife. Insightful in so many ways into the human experience.
  • Ironic Sans — Offbeat ideas, slight rants and just an incredible creative mind is at work here. Not much more to say.
  • Eurotrash — talk about a writer finding their voice. This blog is it. She entered the blogosphere with a scathing review of a reviewer of restaurants for the Times (I was on the floor, laughing so hard) and continued into other areas.
  • El Guapo in DC — Remember Hunter Thompson? El Guapo reminds me a bit of that. The blog is about his adventures with friends. Strange adventures. Strange friends. I don’t think the blog is active anymore. Too bad.

Peace (in blogging),
Kevin

PS — Just for kicks, I did a video review of the book on Amazon. Wondered what it would look like.

Twittering Around on 2008-02-22

  • @murcha I am not sure. I will email Gail D and see how things went. They intended to record the session and post as podcast. I hope they do. #
  • Woke up this morning with ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ in my head — the result of seeing Harlem Globetrotters. Big hit were African tumblers. #
  • Correcting papers in coffee shop when stranger commandeered my XO Laptop for 20 minutes (w/my blessing). He was astounded at possibilities. #
  • @susanettenheim I like Delicious because I have all sorts of people in ‘network’ & I collect via RSS. It’s like opening a bag of candy. #
  • Writing a new rock song — thinking politics and the winds of change on horizon. U2 says: ‘3 chords and the truth.’ Easy for them to say. #
  • @crafty184 Great article. I follow the Teach Jeff Spanish in my RSS feed. — Kevin #
  • @speters Ha! Don’t you wish you could track where the ‘other’ XO is going? I do. At least, the country. How hard would that be? #
  • @njtechteacher The Web 2.0 VT is interesting but a bit overwhelming. I wish there were a more concise index for such a large VoiceThread. #
  • @mrmayo Thanks for sharing this. I had heard about your project (my pre-Twitter days). What an interesting collaborative concept. #

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Some Xs and Os in the local newspaper

After writing about my XO laptop for the larger newspaper in Western Massachusetts last month (view article in Springfield Republican newspaper), the other local newspaper (which had rejected my piece) came knocking on the door, asking to do their own article. I was more than happy to respond because the more people know and understand about the One Laptop Per Child program, the more likely it is that people might support other endeavors of this sort.

This article was very balanced, I thought, and talked as much as the possibilities of the laptop program as the difficulties. (I am still frustrated that the program that my kids and I showed her did not work when she was sitting here but as soon as she was out the door, it started up fine. Doh)

Read the article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette

What is interesting is that, following the first article, I started to receive a few emails from folks in my area who either have an XO or are waiting for theirs to arrive (shipment has been frustrating for many people). One of the folks waiting for their XO happens to be a friend who lives right across the street from me, and we didn’t even know that we were both on the XO bandwagon. He is very jealous that I already have mine and he and his children were over here the other day, fiddling around on mine.

Also, one of my best friends from college, whom I see very year for a friendly Pool Championship of the World, emailed me to say that he also has one of the little machines and thinks I should have been more technical in my article. (He’s a geek). A college professor who used to live in my city and who used to work at a newspaper where I also once worked emailed me, too. One woman wanted some technical advice (as if I could help — hey, I’m a writer!).

Anyway, the second article runs, and my neighbor and I get an email from yet another person in our part of the town who also has an XO and who walks her dog along our street at times. So we are making plans to start up an a little XO club in the coming weeks. Pretty nifty how connections can be formed. It makes me wonder how many people in my city of Northampton have an XO and it demonstrates a few weaknesses of the XO program.

The OLPC organization should:

  • find a way to allow folks in similar geographic areas to connect
  • tag the second computer (it was give one, get one) so that the donor knows which country it is going to
  • do a better job with customer service (my neighbor is being patient but is frustrated with the delivery network)

Peace (in XOs),
Kevin

Twittering Around on 2008-02-21

  • @blkdrama You know I want to know where you go next, so that I can follow with our Western Massachusetts Writing Project (shout out to NWP) #
  • The morning report: paying load o’ bills, cleaning humidifiers, packing lunch for little son, getting ready for dentist mayhem w/older sons #
  • Life Cycle of Book on cover of New Yawka: writer writers, publisher publishes, reader reads, men on city corner burn for heat. end of story. #
  • 10 year old says, "Why do people talk about Global Warming? This is not Global Warming. I’m freezing." — New England Winter morning #
  • @paulallison Hmmm, I like phrase: "These literacies …are multiple, dynamic and malleable" in the NCTE statement #
  • If it’s winter vacation week (and it is), then why do I miss my students so much? (even after an hour grading Parts of Speech projects) #
  • @cathyjo So many defin of digistory, but here are some from my students http://dogtrax.googlepages.com/digitalsciencepicturebooks — Kevin #
  • @cathyjo And this was a blog post about converting digistories to video http://tinyurl.com/3akfsf — Kevin #
  • You are all cordially invited Day in a Simile (a version of Day in a Sentence) http://tinyurl.com/2tbqmy — Kevin #
  • Bringing boys to see Harlem Globetrotters tonight — Anybody remember Meadowlark Lemon & Curley Neal? I do. (cue: theme song) #
  • @garageflowers Yikes — I do, now that you mention it. Prob on Youtube, I bet, if I took the time to check. Funny memory check there, friend #
  • @garageflowers And here it is: http://youtube.com/watch?v=vSHZdgwiiKI Kevin #

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Youth Radio at the MegaConference Jr.

I am both excited and disappointed that our Youth Radio podcast community is going to be part of the 2008 MegaConference Jr. event today. I am excited because it is another way to showcase the possibilities of the collaborative project that brings together the voices and writing of young people from around the world. I am sad because our school is on vacation this week and I can’t get my class to attend.

But, lucky for us, we have Gail Desler, who is helping teacher Jim Faires bring their California class into MegaConference Jr. and she tells me they are planning to podcast their 25 minute or so presentation and seminar on the Youth Radio adventure. Their event begins at 5:05 p.m. (easternUS time) and the link to their event is here. I hope to try to pop in from home, if I can.

Youth Radio began as a way for my students and I to use podcasting with other students. First, it began through friends in the National Writing Project network but it has now branched out considerably to others in various online networks. The podcasts come and go, periodically, and it is a struggle for many of us find the time in our curriculum to really integrate Youth Radio. That is a reality. Another reality is that there are many school districts who are blocking all Web 2.0 applications such as blogging and podcasting, or there is such fear in the community about online predators, that such a project as Youth Radio can’t be sustained. That makes me frustrated on behalf of my colleagues and worried that this is the direction that my school district may venture.

When I watch my students listen to the voices of others around the world, or when they read the comments of peers from other states and countries, I realize the power of these connections through voice and writing. It is very meaningful.

Here is an example of a podcast thread this year. My class invented new words as part of a study of the English Language and we posted a podcast of the words on Youth Radio. A class from Spain was intrigued, and created their own words. That led to a class in Australia to want to do the same. Now we have all these creative words and all these wonderful voices.

Take a listen:

Good luck today, Gail and Jim and our friends from Butler Elementary School in California. You make me proud!

Peace (in podcasts),
Kevin

Twittering Around on 2008-02-20

  • @murcha Got the mp3 and posted it just now. Loved hearing your kids and their invented words. http://youthradio.wordpress.com/ Thanks!!! #
  • @pkittle Where can we find the Gaiman book, Peter? I am definitely interested (says the graphic novel geek in me). Keep me posted, please. #
  • Six Word Motto Results http://tinyurl.com/32gbde I agree w/ Larry/Alice that too many seem negative #
  • Older son woke up — lost voice & has trouble breathing (Yikes) — rush to doc. Diagnosis: bad case of Croup. Now on meds to ease breathing. #
  • You are invited Day in a Simile (a version of Day in a Sentence) http://tinyurl.com/2tbqmy — Kevin #
  • Listening to some wonderful Australian student voices and their invented words on our collab Youth Radio http://youthradio.wordpress.com/ #
  • @cathyjo I left a comment for your friend and put her into my rss feed. — Kevin #
  • Downloading new activities for XO laptop (including Scratch & Moon program & star chart) and am amazed at wealth of offerings. #
  • Nice VoiceThread about XO from lucky teacher (who received two donated XOs) http://voicethread.com/#q.b64010.i332076 #
  • @crafty184 Nice work. The music was creepy and I like the fade-outs and use of shadows. The straight-faced custodian cracked me up. — Kevin #

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Day in a Simile/Survey

Hello!

Day in Sentence IconThis week’s Day in a Sentence is actually Day in a Simile. (Once again, props go out to Larry for another great suggestion). Boil down a day or your week into a simile/sentence and share it out with our growing community of writers and teachers and others.

Just use the comment feature here on this post and submit your simile. Of course, podcast links and videos and any other format is always welcome.

One possible format is: My Day is like a __________ because _____________.

Also, I have been tinkering with Google Forms (which is a quick survey that you can create within Google Docs and Spreadsheets) and I was hoping I could get you all to take a very short survey. First, I am interesting in your thoughts about Day in a Sentence. Second, I want to see how Google Forms works and I promise to share out the information when it is done.

So, pleasepleaseplease, take a second and take the survey. Thanks!

Oh, and here is my sentence/simile.

My week has been like one of my saxophone solos, with many many harmonious parts followed by a few bad notes that just made me cringe.

Peace (in collaboration),
Kevin

How to Stop-Motion Animate

Wow

This video from YouTube is exactly what I have been looking for as an introduction to my students about stop-motion animation. I love the world of viral videos!

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/ZuUGO898_GU" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in frame by frame by frame),

Kevin

Twittering Around on 2008-02-19

  • Little boy: ear infection. Older boy: flu? Wife: flu? Middle boy: hyper. Daddio (me): ready for Battlestar Galactica DVD (g’d night all) #
  • All plans of getting work done today (grading papers, working on bk chapt, finishing new song, etc) are prob out the window w/ a sick house #
  • @kevinessdack That was me, last week. Here is a video of comics made by my sixth graders http://tinyurl.com/2vwvm5 #
  • @speters You need to go into Google Spreadsheets and make forms from there. http://tinyurl.com/2pbdzm #
  • @speters Oops. try this: http://tinyurl.com/36vqqf #
  • Wanna hear a brand new song? Trying it with rock band tonight. Sneak peak: http://www.box.net/shared/xkm6y1ucc4 Hope you all like it. #
  • @paulallison Listening right now, Paul. Interesting. I had not hear the term ‘microblogging’ before following you this week. #
  • @mrneedleman Sorry you are sick. Should I be sorry my song is in your head? 🙂 #
  • @dwarlick Hi, from Kevin, in Western Massachusetts. #
  • Showed off our XO laptop to neighbor and his kids who are still waiting (im)patiently for their XO to arrive, and then … we mesh! #

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Daddy?

In 30 minutes this morning, my three kids barraged with me these questions (I actually wrote them down once I realized the question attack was on, although it was a coordinated venture, as far as I can tell):

  • Can you get me a bowl (me: cereal)? Can you get the milk? Is that a spoon? (7 yr old)
  • My pajamies has milk on it. Can you get it off? (3 yr old)
  • This spoon is too small. Can you get me a big spoon?( 3 yr old)
  • Can you read me a book? (10 yr old)
  • What’s that right there? (me: it’s a crock pot) I don’t like crockpots. (3 yr old)
  • What’s chili? (me: kind of like soup, but spicy) It’s not soup! I don’t like chili. (3 yr old)
  • Can we see Lord of the Rings? (me: no, too scary) You always say that! (10 yr old)
  • Can you help fix my shade? (me: your shade? what’s wrong with your shade. Who yanked it all the way up?) Me. (me: why?) Don’t know. (7 yr old)
  • I don’t have my other sock. Daddy, can you find it? (3 yr old) — sock found in bed.
  • Daddy, when you are done, can I go on NBA.Com? The Celtics play tonight. (7 yr old)

Me: It’s gonna be a long day.

Peace (from the answer man),
Kevin